Sydney’s Delta Outbreak Reaches Record High Despite Lockdown

Sydney’s delta-strain coronavirus outbreak has reached a record daily high since it stated in mid-June, with authorities concerned some residents aren’t complying with lockdown restrictions as the virus spreads through vulnerable multicultural communities.

Australia’s most-populous city recorded 38 new cases in the community from the day before, with 21 of those in the south-western areas of Sydney. The infections, which have reached almost 400 people, include one more aged-care worker, bringing the cluster in that facility to 11 cases.

Covid-Hero Australia Now Vaccine Laggard as Lockdowns Bite

“Those numbers are too high -- we need to get those numbers down,” New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters Thursday. “Please, please avoid contact with households with other households, please avoid visiting family and friends because you are not allowed to,” she said.

The lingering lockdown of some 6 million Australians during school holidays is a blow to the domestic tourism industry and yet again shows the limitations of the government’s strategy of trying to eliminate community transmission of the virus.

While economies such as the U.K. and U.S. are preparing to open up, Australia’s international borders remain largely closed to non-residents and comparatively small clusters of the coronavirus make even domestic travel difficult as states and territories pull up the drawbridge. Along with the delta variant increasingly leaking out of the nation’s hotel-quarantine system, a sluggish vaccine rollout is being blamed for the ongoing disruption.

On Wednesday, Berejiklian announced the initial two-week lockdown, due to expire on Friday, would need to be extended for at least another week. She’s asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ramp up the sluggish vaccination rollout that’s so far seen just 26% of Australians receive their first jab.

Berejiklian has flagged her government may need to impose harsher restrictions in three southwestern Sydney local government areas -- Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown.

Those communities, with a combined population of almost 1 million people, have relatively high proportions of immigrant families. According to data from the most recent Census, about half their populations were born overseas, often in non-English speaking countries.

“The two biggest areas where people are spreading the virus is through household contacts of people close to them, and people who are undertaking activities with symptoms,” Berejiklian said. “We don’t want to prolong the lockdown, we don’t want to see Sydney or New South Wales going in and out of lockdown until we have the vast majority of our population vaccinated.”

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